TERRE HAUTE —
In national politics, Democrats and liberals have attacked Republicans in a personal way, rather than based on policy and principles.
It’s time for the Republican Party to do the same and get personal, says Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr., who has been named special counsel to the Republican National Committee.
Bopp was asked his thoughts on how the Republican Party can rebuild in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s defeat last year in the presidential election.
“While we prefer to talk about policy and principles, they [Democrats] prefer in many instances to mischaracterize people on a personal level, on a character level,” he said in an interview Monday.
“We [Republican Party] have to learn to deal with that, we have to learn to defend ourselves from it. We also have to learn that because so many voters consider personal attributes to be important, we have to talk about the personal attributes of Democrats and liberals,” he said.
Republicans want to ignore those personal attacks “because we think personal attacks are despicable,” Bopp said. “We don’t want to participate and we don’t want to defend against them. Well, we’re going to have to be defending against them because they work.”
In Bopp’s new volunteer role as special counsel to the RNC, he will assist RNC general counsel John Ryder on legal issues, and particularly, rules of the Republican Party.
“There is a lot of work going on right now to re-examine the rules to try to fix some of the problems the party has had in the last election or two,” Bopp said. “They asked for my help.”
Among RNC goals are to win a majority in the U.S. Senate and to win the White House in 2016.
Bopp previously has been RNC vice chairman, and he’s also handled lawsuits for RNC, including a major one that’s pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, McCutcheon v. FEC.
“The Republican Party is not exactly on its deathbed,” Bopp said. “We have 30 of 50 governors. We control the majority of state legislatures. We control the U.S. House of Representatives.”
But it needs to do better and get a Republican in the White House, he said. Obama’s presidency “is having a severe, detrimental affect to our country and we don’t want that to happen again.”
While Democrats and liberals get personal and say Republicans are narrow-minded, out of touch and non-inclusive, in Bopp’s opinion, “It seems to me the Democrat policies are really trying to create a dependency class of poor and disadvantaged people that then can vote for them.”
He takes aim and points to high unemployment rates for the black community and single women. Obama’s policies aren’t addressing that, he said.
He says the Republican Party does suffer from “a perception issue that needs to be addressed.”
Bopp also believes the party can address its challenges “without compromising our principles or changing our policies.” Those principles include opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, he said.
Bopp served on the Republican National Committee from 2008 to 2012.
He also was recently named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the United States by The National Law Journal.
The journal describes Bopp as a “litigation machine, methodically mowing down restrictions on campaign financing and speech.”
Bopp says he is “honored and humbled” by the recognition.
In October, he will argue his seventh case before the U.S. Supreme Court, McCutcheon vs. FEC, which challenges the biennial individual aggregate limits on contributions to candidates and national political party committees (such as the RNC).
“This biennial spending limit no longer serves any purpose other than to limit how much money candidates, PACs and political parties may receive overall, while Super PACs and advocacy groups may raise unlimited sums for their political purposes,” Bopp said in a statement.
Bopp was successful in another case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the way for corporations, labor unions and other groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts independently to influence federal elections.
Bopp acknowledges that decision “has spawned incredibly powerful Super PACs,” but the real blame should not go to Citizens United, he said. That case was “simply implementing the First Amendment, which said you can’t limit speech.”
“The reason for Super PACs is contribution limits, not the Citizens United decision,” he said.
Because of limits on what they can give to candidates and national parties, people are instead giving it to Super PACs, which are less accountable and, in many cases, less transparent, Bopp said. The net effect is to marginalize candidates.
“You can’t vote against a Super PAC,” he said.
He predicts the problems will get worse “until we raise or eliminate contribution limits,” he said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.